The Mechanical case against Foam Rolling your IT Band. It can NOT lengthen and it is NOT tight. - By Greg Lehman (Physiotherapist, Chiropractor, Strength & Conditioning Specialist)
"Purpose: A brief argument on why attempting to lengthen your IT Band with stretching or foam rolling is a waste of time and not possible.
A note on terminology: This article talks about using a foam roller to "lengthen" the IT Band. Occasionally, this gets referred to as stretching the ITB. What is argued is that foam rolling can not "lengthen" or "stretch" this structure more than transiently. Yes, it will deform a little bit like all viscoelastic biological structures (they all have stress-strain curves with varying degrees of stiffness) but it won't get "longer".
Some quick points about the IT Band
- the IT Band is not really a strap that runs from the hip to the knee. It is not a discrete entity. Rather it is just the thickest part of the fascia lata. The fascia lata being the sock that wraps around the entire thigh. The IT Band is just the lateral thickening of this sock
- the IT Band is some dense connective tissue and probably can't be permanently deformed. While it may be stretched in the short term this is due to its viscoelastic properties (i.e. adding a bit of grease or shaking out the cobwebs) rather than any means where it is actually permanently lengthened. Actual lengthening would require you to damage your IT Band to get it into a lengthened state. 5 minutes on a foam roller or 10 minutes of daily stretching would not be able to do it.
- you might be able to stretch the muscles that attach to the IT Band. However, muscle stretching is also very difficult. The changes in muscle stiffness we see with stretching and warm up are again due to the viscoelastic properties of tissue. Muscles don't become looser they just have increased tolerance to stretch. Update Nov 2015: some research has even challenged this idea! This is most likely an adaptation of the nervous system rather than any change in muscle tissue properties. See my post here on muscle stretching.
- the IT Band can't be lengthened because it is tethered to the entire length of the femur. Got that? It is tied to the leg bone. It ain't going no where.
- it is supposed to be tight. Therapist will tell you it is tight because they were told to look for it to be tight. They don't have a proper method to determine this. The test that looks at ITB tightness (OBER's test) is really just an assessment of hip adduction range. So many other factors influence this range that to blame it on the IT Band is just bullying (IT Bullying!).
-what if you could lengthen it? Then what? Could you over do it and have some jigglying IT Band that just wobbles when you run? No! This does not happen. It does not stretch.
- the ITB may be similar to tendons. Meaning it stores and releases elastic energy. We definitely don't want to length it or change its properties. There is little evidence that tendon stiffness can be changed through stretching so perhaps the ITB is similar."
The text above is an extract from a blog written by Greg Lehman. please go and read the full blog here; http://www.greglehman.ca/blog/2012/03/17/stop-foam-rolling-your-it-band-it-can-not-lengthen-and-it-is-not-tight